Just when you think you're tough enough

Cross Train Obstacle Race

How a Personal Trainer prepares for Reebok Spartan Race

Image from Reebok Fitness
Image from Reebok Fitness

Gerren Liles – Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, ReebokONE Ambassador shares some advice

Running a Reebok Spartan Race challenges you completely, both mentally and physically. As a Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer, I have always worked out all the time, but I’ve never had an outlet where I could put my training to the test and really assess my own strengths and weaknesses. Spartan Races have legitimately pulled me out of my fitness doldrums. Now I’ve done somewhere between 8 and 12 races and finally completed my Trifecta (which means finishing all three Spartan distances within a calendar year).

Proper training is required to prepare for a Reebok Spartan Race. You have to climb, pull, push and crawl, having a mastery over your entire body. You need mobility and flexibility to get yourself over obstacles. You need agility to be able to run through rocky and muddy terrain. Being able to support your body weight and move at the same time are arguably the skills most necessary to doing your best.

Over time, and with the right attention to training, you’ll notice an improvement in your finishing time, not just because you can run faster and longer, but because you can navigate through the challenges with more ease. Here are some of the functional training movements I use to prepare for my next Reebok Spartan Race, as well as other tips that will get you race-day ready.

Image from Reebok Fitness
Image from Reebok Fitness

To Work on Your Leg Strength

There are many leg exercises that will help you build the strength, mobility and agility in your legs and feet to help you perform during a Reebok Spartan Race. I often do agility ladder work to train my ankle reflexes and improve mobility for when I’m running through the woods, which are often abundant with rocks, mud and uneven terrain. Believe it or not, wall-sits are also helpful. When you are running downhill, the joint angles and quad activation is similar to that of a wall-sit. Some days, I’ll find a nice incline and do uphill sprints. If I’m at a gym, I’ll use the stairmaster while carrying kettlebells or a ViPR to train moving uphill with load.

To Strengthen Arms & Grip

Being able to support your own bodyweight, and to be able to push and pull, are necessary for succeeding in a Reebok Spartan Race. Pull-ups, dead-hangs and monkey bar traverses are staples in my training regimen.

Grip strength is also critical. Doing dead-hangs and farmer’s walks with kettlebells or bars are challenging. Even more challenging is wrapping a towel through the kettlebell handle or the pull-up bar handle and then gripping.

To Increase Core Strength

For your core? Planks and rotational exercises. Crawling, javelin throws and pulls all require trunk stability and rotational support. Trunk twists with med balls or large rocks, as well as chops with anti-rotation, all help to strengthen your core.

Image from Reebok Fitness
Image from Reebok Fitness

To Effectively Slay Burpees

When Spartans can’t complete an obstacle, they must conquer 30 burpees as a penalty, so knowing how to efficiently cycle through burpees is important. You can be badass and do chest-to-deck style burpees, or do a regular squat thrust and then hop at the top.

One thing that I do when I train my long distance runs is stop and do 30 burpees at every mile.

The burpees are more dynamic than running – and exhausting – so the more you add that conditioning to your overall routine, the less of a shock it will be to your system should you find yourself doing them on the obstacle course. Of course, if you get the obstacles right, you won’t need to do burpees…

To Practice Obstacles

Running in the streets may help with your endurance, but most Reebok Spartan Races take place in locations with many hills and valleys. So any area that allows for changes in elevation will be helpful for training. Find city blocks or parks that have steep hills or inclines. And…stairs, stairs, stairs! There’s always some stairs to race up, whether indoors or outdoors! Bear crawls are also important – they provide upper and lower body strength and agility for when you’re crawling under barb wires.

To Stay Mentally Strong

My favorite Spartan memory (which wasn’t so awesome at the time), was my recent Spartan Super in Pennsylvania. This was the final race to complete my Trifecta. I was at the 7½  mile mark of the 8-mile race. I caught a severe cramp in my inner thigh and lay on the ground writhing in pain with the finish line in sight. After a good 10-15 minutes, I thought about having the medic summoned, effectively ending the race and possibly ruining my chance to complete the Trifecta.

At that point in time, I had to seriously adjust my mindset, to choose to wait out the pain – no matter how long it took – and trudge to the finish line. Not to worry about time, not to care about my ego, but just get it done. After a while, I was able to stand up, I grabbed my bucket, made my way up the hill and ultimately to the finish line. It wasn’t a glorious ending, but I completed my goal.

Image from Reebok Fitness
Geeram Liles – You’ll know at the finish line. Image from Reebok Fitness

Source: Reebok Fitness